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Poem by John Gay

Part I. Fable 41. The Owl and the Farmer

  An owl of grave deport and mien,
  Who (like the Turk) was seldom seen,
  Within a barn had chose his station,
  As fit for prey and contemplation.
  Upon a beam aloft he sits,
  And nods, and seems to think by fits.
  So have I seen a man of news,
  Or Post-boy_, or _Gazette_ peruse;
  Smoke, nod, and talk with voice profound,
  And fix the fate of Europe round.

  Sheaves piled on sheaves, hid all the floor;
  At dawn of morn, to view his store
  The farmer came. The hooting guest
  His self-importance thus express'd:
     'Reason in man is mere pretence:
  How weak, how shallow is his sense!
  To treat with scorn the bird of night,
  Declares his folly, or his spite.
  Then too, how partial is his praise!
  The lark's, the linnet's chirping lays

  To his ill-judging ears are fine;
  And nightingales are all divine.
  But the more knowing feathered race
  See wisdom stamped upon my face.
  Whene'er to visit light I deign,
  What flocks of fowl compose my train!
  Like slaves they crowd my flight behind,
  And own me of superior kind.'
     The farmer laughed, and thus replied:
  'Thou dull important lump of pride,

  Dar'st thou with that harsh grating tongue,
  Depreciate birds of warbling song?
  Indulge thy spleen. Know, men and fowl
  Regard thee, as thou art an owl.
  Besides, proud blockhead, be not vain,
  Of what thou call'st thy slaves and train.
  Few follow wisdom or her rules;
  Fools in derision follow fools.'

John Gay

John Gay's other poems:
  1. Prediction
  2. To My Chair
  3. To a Lady on Her Passion for Old China
  4. An Epistle to Her Grace, Henrietta, Duchess of Marlborough
  5. The Quidnunckis

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